Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago (Leonor Will Never Die) is featured in both the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the forthcoming Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).
The Manila-based director’s first feature film took about eight years to complete. In January of this year, the international film industry took notice of the 29-year-old’s film when it won a special award at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award.
Sundance juror La Frances Hui said, “Switching in-between genres, this film within a film follows an ailing screenwriter who enters her unfinished screenplay of a gangster film to experience and edit her own creation. Constantly shifting in tone, the film is a playful display of the love of cinema. Its innovative and risk-taking spirit is especially commendable.”
Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago tells of the surreal transport of a retired screenwriter of Filipino action films into the story of one of her own unfinished scripts. Lead character Leonor Reyes finds herself magically interacting with her script’s heroes and villains travelling through her script’s increasingly surreal episodes.
Variety.com’s film critic Amy Nicholson lauds Leonor’s adventures “play like an affectionate sendup of cornball heroics.” Nicholson adds, “But Escobar is after something deeper than parody. She wants audiences to question how fictional strongmen have been idealized as real-world saviors. It’s a problem relevant not just to Americans who have elected Reagan, Schwarzenegger and Trump but to Escobar’s home country of the Philippines, which also elected an action star to the presidency and (was) led by a tough-talking brute who brags about murdering his own citizens.”
As a participant to the TIFF, Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago will run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre on September 17, and at the Scotiabank Theatre on September 18. Both theatres are located in Toronto.
The VIFF starts its festival run on September 29 until October 9. Escobar’s film will be shown at The Rio Theatre in Vancouver on October 1 and October 6.